Russian Federation/Northern Caucasus: ICRC maintains aid effort

01-03-2011 Operational Update

In a volatile security environment, the ICRC continues to respond to the needs of people affected by past conflicts and ongoing violence in the Northern Caucasus.

In the Northern Caucasus, the ICRC has the double aim of helping people recover from the effects of past conflicts, particularly in Chechnya and Ingushetia, while also responding to the deteriorating situation observed in some areas over the past two years. "Hundreds of families from all walks of life have been affected in different ways and have different needs," said Juan Luis Coderque Galligo, head of the ICRC regional delegation in Moscow. "The role of the ICRC, as a neutral and independent humanitarian organization, is to work with the authorities, the Russian Red Cross and other partners to ease the suffering of these families, many of which are now headed by women."

With a 2011 budget of 10.5 million Swiss francs for its humanitarian activities in the Northern Caucasus and 212 staff in the region, the ICRC:

  • funds micro-economic initiatives, which help needy people recover economic self-sufficiency;
  • supports a programme of home visits by nurses, run by local branches of the Russian Red Cross Society;
  • continues to work on the cases of missing persons and to promote the well-being of their families;
  • is seeking to provide additional support for people affected by the current security situation.

To ensure effective emergency response, the ICRC:

  • trains medical personnel and provides health-care facilities with surgical supplies for use in the event of an emergency;
  • supports a first-aid training programme conducted by local branches of the Russian Red Cross in the Northern Caucasus;
  • helps the branches boost their emergency preparedness.

In addition, the ICRC continues to spread knowledge of international humanitarian law and of humanitarian principles among the authorities, the armed and security forces and in schools and universities.

Dealing with the effects of past conflicts

Past conflicts in the Northern Caucasus continue to have an especially severe impact on the lives of displaced people, elderly people, families whose breadwinners have gone missing or have been detained, people living in mine-affected areas, amputees and other disabled people.

Helping people recover self-sufficiency

To help the most needy, the ICRC supports micro-economic initiatives. Thanks to a programme launched in 2005, many people have been able to start small family businesses in agriculture, livestock rearing, crafts, trades and other services. They have also received vocational training to develop specific skills. Since it was started, the programme has helped over 25,000 people boost their incomes.

"Stocking hay for sale is quite profitable in our area. When I learned about micro-economic initiatives, I asked for a mowing machine," said Adam, one of the beneficiaries of the programme. "Now I earn about 15,000 roubles per month during the six-month season. With this money, my family can live without worry."

Between 2008 and 2010, the ICRC supported around 2,400 micro-economic initiatives benefiting the same number of families in Chechnya and Ingushetia, enabling them to increase their income by 40 per cent on average.

Assisting people in mine-affected areas

Mines continue to blight people's lives in Chechnya. In the second half of last year, three servicemen were reported killed and four civilians and five servicemen injured as a result of mine explosions. In addition, because mines are not cleared and dangerous areas are not marked systematically, many inhabitants are unable to tend their fields and must therefore forgo a major source of income, particularly in rural areas. ICRC-supported micro-economic projects offer them alternative ways of earning an income while also reducing their exposure to the risk of mines. About 140 such projects have been implemented so far in seven southern Chechen villages: Yandie, Boshie, Varandy, Dzhugurty, Benoy, Tsa-Vedeno and Vashindaroy. "The projects have helped prevent new mine-related incidents and enabled villagers to improve their living conditions," said a representative of the local authorities in Dzhugurty village of Kurchaloy district.

Providing remote villages with clean water

Past conflicts and deteriorating infrastructure render access to water problematic in some areas, particularly in the southern districts of Chechnya, so the ICRC is helping to upgrade water and sanitation systems.

Last summer, the ICRC initiated a water project in the village of Betti-Mohk in Nozhay-Yurt district, working in partnership with the Chechen Water Board. The organization supplied the necessary materials, built a concrete water storage tank and repaired two spring intakes. As a result, safe water is now available to 970 villagers.

In October, the ICRC donated two kilometres of plastic pipe and 21 pipe fittings to the village of Meskety for the construction of an additional pipeline that will increase water supply for 800 people in part of the village.

Assisting people with special needs

In order to respond to the special needs of elderly people living alone and of missing persons' relatives, who are subject to the enormous stress of not knowing what has happened to their loved ones, the ICRC supports a programme under which nurses make home visits. These visits provide care for elderly people, plus psychological support for the families of missing persons. The programme is run by the local branches of the Russian Red Cross in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Daghestan. Between June 2010 and January 2011, over 1,060 lonely elderly people were provided with care and given food parcels and hygiene kits. About 60 families of missing persons in Chechnya received psychological support.

The issue of missing persons remains a matter of concern. Tackling it properly and effectively requires political will and coordination of efforts. The ICRC therefore continues to raise awareness of the suffering of those who remain without news of their relatives and to remind federal and local authorities of their obligation to provide answers. Furthermore, in cooperation with the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the ICRC has drawn up and proposed a model law on missing persons.

Children directly or indirectly affected by conflict or other violence – in particular those from displaced families – represent an especially vulnerable group. In the second half of 2010, over 600 children regularly went to seven playrooms in Chechnya and Ingushetia and to the Beslan Centre for Psychosocial Assistance in North Ossetia, which are managed by the local Russian Red Cross branches with ICRC support. In addition, on 8 and 9 August, 32 teachers and school-board representatives attended a seminar, organized by the ICRC in cooperation with the ministry of education and science of the Chechen Republic, on how to train children to behave safely in weapon-contaminated areas.

Helping relatives stay in touch

The ICRC finances visits for families from all republics in the Northern Caucasus to relatives held in places of detention across the Russian Federation. Between June 2010 and January 2011, about 240 detainees received visits from family members and over 150 parcels were delivered to detainees on behalf of families unable to visit them. The ICRC also enabled detainees held at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to speak to their relatives in the Northern Caucasus by phone.

The ICRC’s efforts to restore family links have also involved drawing the authorities’ attention to the cases of families whose members have lost contact as a result of past conflicts or ongoing violence.

Preparing for emergencies

To enhance the ability of health workers to treat casualties resulting from security incidents, the ICRC offers training to medical personnel working in surgery and trauma wards and in emergency aid services. In October, 19 specialists from various Northern Caucasus republics attended an emergency-room trauma course organized by the ICRC in cooperation with the North Ossetian State Medical Academy. Five nurses from Chechnya participated in a certification course at the Rostov-on-Don Training Centre.

Between June 2010 and January 2011, the ICRC provided hospitals in Chechnya and Daghestan with three emergency kits, each of which contained enough supplies to treat up to 25 wounded people. In November, six hospitals in Chechnya received a one-off supply of drugs and consumables to increase their stocks.

The ICRC also seeks to strengthen the capacity of Russian Red Cross branches to respond to emergencies, and supports a first-aid training programme intended for the general public that is conducted by Russian Red Cross branches in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia. Almost 2,400 people were trained between June 2010 and January 2011.

Promoting compliance with the law

Spreading knowledge of international humanitarian law and other legal instruments and standards among the authorities, the armed and security forces and in schools and universities remains a key component of the ICRC's activities in the Northern Caucasus.

The ICRC places special emphasis on ensuring that the police and interior troops performing security operations know the rules. Between June 2010 and January 2011, the ICRC organized 23 information sessions for over 500 law-enforcement personnel in Daghestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. Furthermore, the ICRC maintains regular dialogue with federal and local law-enforcement authorities on arrests, detention and the use of force.

The ICRC continues to promote the teaching of international humanitarian law in universities. A team from Chechen State University won first prize at an ICRC IHL competition for journalism students in Moscow last November.

A seminar on the teaching of international humanitarian law in Vladikavkaz under the auspices of the North Ossetian State University in cooperation with the ICRC brought together some 20 professors from leading Northern Caucasus universities.

The ICRC has been working in the Northern Caucasus since 1992 and currently has offices in Grozny, Khasavyurt, Nalchik, Nazran and Vladikavkaz.

For further information, please contact:
Yuriy Shafarenko, ICRC Moscow, tel: +7 495 626 5426
Vassily Fadeev, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 79 536 92 48